Mercedes target identified with McLaren duo overlooked as Lewis Hamilton’s replacement

Jamie Woodhouse
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, and Lando Norris, McLaren, celebrate. Silverstone, July 2023.

Lando Norris held off Lewis Hamilton to take P2 at Silverstone.

F1 analyst Peter Windsor would like to see Charles Leclerc head to Mercedes when the time comes to find a replacement for Lewis Hamilton.

Seven-time World Champion Hamilton is expected to extend his stay with Mercedes beyond the F1 2023 campaign, but as his current deal ticks towards its conclusion with no announcement yet on a fresh deal, speculation is mounting once again over his future.

George Russell is believed to be tied down to Mercedes long-term, but whether it is for next season or further down the line, Mercedes will need to give thought to who could take Hamilton’s place in their driver line-up when he does move on.

Peter Windsor wants Charles Leclerc to replace Lewis Hamilton

And speaking in a post-British GP YouTube livestream, Windsor was asked which driver out of McLaren duo Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri and Leclerc he would like to see Mercedes boss Toto Wolff sign.

Leclerc is the driver who Windsor picked, believing it would be an “interesting challenge” to get the best out of a racer who is seemingly growing increasingly frustrated with life at Ferrari.

“Two Brits, Lando and George, probably a few fireworks going on there,” said Windsor.

“Oscar, he’s very good isn’t he? And I suppose after a while Lando will have got used to having Oscar in the other car and how quick he is.

“Or Charles. I think Charles is such an interesting driver, such an interesting time with his career, because he’s very good, but he’s not looking very good.

“And he’s obviously got issues going on in his head to do with all the stuff that comes with the dramas at Ferrari and everywhere else, and for me the challenge would be to get the best from Charles and I would love to do that.

“So in answer to your question, boring answer it probably is, but I would go for Charles actually, I think just because I think it would be an interesting challenge.”

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McLaren should have kept Daniel Ricciardo alongside Lando Norris

While Hamilton is a record eight-time winner of his home race, the British Grand Prix, he was not the highest-finishing Brit at the 2023 staging, with that honour going to Norris who finished P2, with Hamilton completing the podium.

Norris’ rookie McLaren team-mate Piastri understandably felt hard done by not to join him on the podium, the timing of the Safety Car giving Hamilton a big helping hand in getting ahead of Piastri and booting him out of the top three.

Windsor though, is not sure that McLaren are taking the correct approach in having a rapid young driver pushing Norris hard, arguing that Ricciardo, who was bought out of the final year of his contract after further poor performances in 2022, should have been kept on as Norris’ team-mate.

“I kind of fear a little bit for Lando,” said Windsor.

“I shouldn’t really because Lando’s that good, he’ll handle it, but Oscar is going to be very, very near Lando, well he was very near him today and he’s going to continue to be very near him.

“And it will be interesting to see how Lando then expands his friction circle if you’d like, how much more he can do as a racing driver.

“And I’m not convinced that putting pressure on Lando is the right thing to be doing. I’ve said a million times, if I was Zak [Brown, McLaren CEO], I would have kept Daniel Ricciardo, but that’s just me.

“Oscar would have been in the Alpine and it would have been [Esteban] Ocon-Piastri and he would have had some good races in the Alpine and he would have eventually ended up either at McLaren or maybe at Mercedes or somewhere very, very good, because he’s that good.”

Windsor doubts that McLaren will have written into Piastri’s contract that he is the number two driver to Norris, freeing up the Aussie to show what he can really do in the MCL60 and beyond.

To that point then, Windsor returned to his stance on Ricciardo, saying keeping him around would have been the better option for a “peaceful happy team”.

“I’m not sure Piastri will want to be controlled for the rest of his career at McLaren, that’s for sure,” Windsor stated.

“I’d be interested to know what’s in his contract, whether it says he will always be the number two driver on the circuit. I doubt it. I doubt it because I can’t imagine Lando would have insisted on that and equally I can’t imagine Zak would want that anyway.

“So as I said, if you want a peaceful happy team, it should have been Daniel Ricciardo in the other car, but if you want the quickest young guy you can have, Piastri is your man.”

Norris sits P9 in the current Drivers’ standings with 42 points to Piastri’s 17, but if McLaren’s surge in form over the Austrian and British GP rounds with their upgraded MCL60 is truly a sign of what is to come, then both drivers will likely add to their respective tallies significantly before F1 2023 is over.

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